Here we share your stories of sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault in healthcare. Every story is a powerful testimony, describing lived experiences and the impact of sexual violence.
Thank you to every person who has shared their story with us.
These stories contain descriptions of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.
All Stories — Page 12 of 15
As a junior surgery trainee, the cardiothoracic consultant at the operating table suggested that I improve my finger dexterity, “maybe by masturbating more”. Nobody in the room objected – Registrar, anaesthetist or scrub nurse. When I later complained formally, I was told that it was my word against his, because ‘no-one else could remember anything’. This was one of a string of similar incidents affecting me and other female trainees and medical students.
Earlier this year I was doing ward rounds with my registrar (senior) who, to male patients on the ward would gesture to me and say ‘and don’t we have a pretty female doctor with us today’.
Needless to say I found the rounds awkward, and felt objectified not only by the registrar, but also the patients who he was inviting to ‘check me out’ with. I explained to the registrar I didn’t think this was appropriate, but it took escalation to a senior to sort out. Thankfully escalation was all that was required in this case!
I am a male nurse. During my nurse training I felt sexually harassed by my fellow students on multiple occasions. The ratio of male to female students was around 60/1. I had female student nurses constantly making inappropriate sexual comments towards me. I was touched, repeatedly, I had my groin grabbed on numerous occasions. I felt intimidated and uncomfortable. But as a man, we just have to laugh it off.
Whilst I was a junior doctor, a male senior registrar harassed me persistently, with increasingly unwelcome comments, progressing to ‘accidental’ touching on the ward round etc. His comments included graphic descriptions of the things he would like to do to me. At the same job, an older male consultant touched female juniors on seemingly a daily basis. Everyone knew. It had been going on for years. Essentially he was the Jimmy Savile of the local surgical community…I no longer work in hospital medicine but I’m sure these things are all still happening to the current generation of female juniors.
Meeting with my educational supervisor during which I informed him I was pregnant. He said he had thought that might be the case because my breasts were much bigger than they had used to be. I was speechless and nervously laughed it off. Could feel my face burning from embarrassment. Found it challenging to focus on the rest of the meeting without constantly fixing my clothing to keep myself covered.
Having just reviewed a sick patient in ED I popped back up to discuss with the Consultant on call. He had the rest of the team – more junior doctors around the desk beside him. He told me to sit down next to him and I started to discuss the case. He called me ‘missy’, put his hand on my thigh and slid it up with his thumb on the inside. This would not have happened to a man.
I was being sexually harassed by a patient. I felt frightened and did not feel safe at work. I went to see a male colleague for advice who specialises in this kind of risk management and whose role it is to advise on issues like this. He told me there is nothing I can do other than to eat 10 doughnuts every night.
In our hospital it is common knowledge that one of the male matrons makes sexual advances to female nurses more junior to him. Many staff avoid leaving do’s and Christmas parties because he is so much worse when he has had a drink. If a nurse rejects his sexual advances then he targets her for months (or until she leaves); he criticises all of her work, spreads false information about her, publicly belittles her, denies her training opportunities, blocks any promotion prospects.
On one ward I worked on, I received comments about my appearance from male staff almost every day. Some of the staff would very obviously look me up and down slowly before saying anything. I received frequent comments about whether they thought I had gained or lost weight, what they thought of my hair that day, what my facial features looked like, whether I was look tired or my skin was looking glowy… it was relentless and was always something. I tried to dress in a plain and conservative way, did not wear makeup and kept my hair the same every day so that there was less to draw attention to my appearance. I felt so self conscious of my appearance during that job. I just wanted to do my job and do it well and didn’t want to feel like my looks were always being evaluated.
I was at an interview for a senior nurse position. The consultant asked about my life outside work, asked if I had a partner, I said yes a husband, his next question any future plans? I didn’t know how to answer and said nothing, as recently we had donated our remaining frozen embryo to research following unsuccessful fertility treatment ending our fertility journey. Would they have asked a man the same question?
Our ward was mostly staffed by female Band 2 and Band 3 Health Care Assistants (HCA’s). The male Matron was keen to employ some males and said that we would never be able to appoint men at this banding because men wouldn’t work for this level of pay. He pushed to get Band 4 HCA posts in the service, stating more publicly that it was to get a better skill mix and that these posts would take on more responsibility. Males were subsequently recruited to the Band 4 posts, whilst the female HCA’s continued to work at Band 2 and 3. On paper, they should have had different roles but in reality they carried out all the same duties. All of the Bands were officially open to all genders, however there was a clear gender divide in who got recruited to which Band.
It took 9 years of university degrees and clinical training to qualify as a Clinical Psychologist and I have extensive training and clinical experience since qualifying. Despite this, when male patients I was working with responded well to psychological treatment and showed improvements/progress then colleagues frequently said that this was because the patient fancied me. Comments like this were never made to male colleagues. I repeatedly feel that my clinical skills and expertise are undermined and that my work being successful is instead assumed to not be an achievement but instead due to my appearance and gender.
My ES (male) told me that if I want to make it in surgery as a woman, I need to keep my head down, be as unobjectionable as possible and do everything anyone asks me to as no one likes an outspoken, demanding female.
When I was an FY1 working in orthopaedics my clinical supervisor told me that I should go into primary care because as a female that was the best career choice for me. It would make life easier to have children and I would be able work part time to look after them. We had previously never discussed my career options/aspirations or whether I wanted/could have children.
I was keen to apply for a position that I had seen advertised and so spoke with the Consultant Psychiatrist in the team to express my interest and find out more about the role. She told me that she is keen to appoint a male to the position so that they don’t end up with someone who then goes on maternity leave.